Custom Home – What to do while you wait for your Building Permit…

Ok, so you’ve designed your dream floorplan – you know the layout of your home, the size of your rooms and the location of your windows. Now, the “behind the scenes” work is being done by the engineers, architects, builders, etc. who are putting together the package needed to submit and obtain your building permit.

So what are you doing?

Here’s a list of things to consider doing now in order to save you time, headaches, (and maybe even money) down the road!

1. Figure out your exterior and interior doors

The first thing we had to do after our land was cleared was order our windows and exterior doors. Those are installed as soon as the house is framed and the roof is installed, so you have to pick them very early on. Researching your options before the building permits are even issued gives you a little more time to decide.

The interior doors won’t be needed for quite some time (after drywall is installed) but you will want to know what type of interior doors you want for each space before framing starts (i.e.: pocket doors, dutch doors, glass doors, etc.). We had noted our pocket doors during the floor planning stage (so they were already part of the plans submitted for the permit) but the other doors were decided afterwards. While the doors aren’t installed until much later, they are usually ordered early on so knowing what you want at the onset will save you some headaches down the road.

2. Go see your suppliers! (millwork, electrical, plumbing, tile, floors)

By now, you should know who your builder’s suppliers are. If they have storefronts, go visit them. If they have design centres, go visit them. Visit everyone and make a running list of all of the options that you like.

In our case, our builder had budget allowances for each of the major items, so we would make our selections from their suppliers up to the allotted amount and then we knew that we could source the rest on our own. For example, we ordered all of our tubs, toilets, and a few other plumbing items from our builder’s supplier and then, once we maxed out the allowance, we ordered our other plumbing items such as faucets, etc. ourselves from more big-box places like Home Depot and Wayfair.

Millwork is another big one. While you probably won’t be able to “shop around” where millwork is concerned, you might be able to start getting an idea of what your wish list will cost. Millwork was by far our biggest ticket item but, unfortunately, it was also one of the last things that we finalized (and we all know that the closer you get to the end, the less $$$ there is left for upgrades!).

3. Choose your appliances

Your appliances will actually dictate a lot of the steps in your build. You need to know the size of your appliances for your millwork design. In our case, our fridge/freezer is niched between two walls in our kitchen, so we actually needed to know the size before framing started. You’ll also need to know certain features – for example, do you want a gas range, a fridge with a water dispenser, etc… – in order for the plumber or gas fitter to know what lines need to be installed.

Depending on what is happening in the world at the time of your build (i.e.: we’re building in the middle of a pandemic), there may be long delays for appliances, so you want to choose and even order them very early on!

4. Consider furniture layout

You won’t need your furniture until you move in but the purpose of thinking about your desired layout right from the onset is to know how the other aspects of the build need to be planned out.

For example, our original plans that were submitted as part of our building permit application, had two set of french doors in our great room. Once we started thinking of how we wanted to place our couch in the great room, however, it became apparent that we would not have enough room to open the doors (which, under Ontario Building Code, have to open inwards) and have a large sectional. So we immediately changed our design from two sets of double doors to 12′ slider doors instead. Had we waited until we moved in to start thinking about our furniture, we would have been a lot more restricted in our options.

Electrical is another item that can be catered to your furniture selections. For example, while Luca is still in a crib, we know that he will eventually be in a Queen bed like his brother and that we will always have a King bed in our master bedroom. Knowing these sizes, we were able to tell our electrician exactly how far apart to install outlets, so that they are on either side of the beds.

5. Make a list for each stage (electrical, plumbing, framing)

Your builder isn’t going to be able to answer all of your questions at the moment that you think of them. We knew we wanted soffit lighting long before our land had been cleared but we also knew that we couldn’t expect our builder to remember all of our wish list items from the onset. The reality is, they are not thinking about those things until the time comes to install them so it is incumbent upon you to think of and plan your wish list.

In order to try to stay on top of things, I divided a notebook into different sections – framing, electrical, plumbing, millwork, etc. – and every time an idea or question would come up, we would write it down. That way, when the time came for our electrical walkthrough, I would open our notebook to the electrical section and go through each point and ask any of our questions then. We did the same for every other step in our build to ensure we covered everything that we could think of.

Basically, the purpose of the above suggestions are to minimize surprises down the road. Your builder will likely direct you along the way but the reality is they won’t be answering all of your unknowns right from the start (they just don’t have the time to go through every detail from the onset), so if you want to try to keep on top of the build, the onus is on you to do your research.


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